Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) have become the preferred maintenance management tool for a growing number of companies of all sizes and across a broad range of sectors. Companies adopting CMMS software have traded in pencil and paper approaches to facility management in favor of fully automated ones. These systems minimize long time lags between identifying a maintenance problem and resolving it. They also reduce the human errors and inefficient utilization of technician times that were previously associated with manually managed maintenance operations.
Those unfamiliar with CMMSs may ask, “Why fix what isn’t broken?” In other words, why trade in a relatively low-cost manual maintenance management system that does a reasonable job for one that is a lot more expensive? In principle, this reasoning makes perfect sense except when considering the overall efficiency of a maintenance department and the profitability of a company. Add to these increasing economic demands, market competition and changes in technology. When considering how CMMS software can be leveraged in transforming a maintenance department, let’s start by describing what it can do.
To begin, CMMSs are powerful maintenance management systems that provide maintenance managers with a real time overview of a facility’s operation. It can also zero in on the status of any single piece of equipment.
CMMSs are able to check inventory levels, track work orders and quickly generate operations reports. Most important, CMMSs can instantly determine which company assets require routine preventive maintenance.
Automated maintenance management software is able to meet the unique and changing needs of companies large and small. CMMS products are highly customizable, offering a range of features, formats, price points and support options.
Let’s now consider a few ways maintenance departments can benefit from CMMS:
Preventive Maintenance (PM) Scheduling
Preventive maintenance is the heart and soul of a CMMS system, and it’s also its most valued feature. Business owners choose automated systems for this feature alone because of reduced operational costs and increased company profits.
Before PMs were incorporated into automated maintenance systems, scheduled preventive maintenance was almost nonexistent. This is because maintenance generally occurred reactively; meaning it was usually done when a piece of equipment failed. Using this approach, maintenance departments are left to struggle with allocating technician time and are burdened by expensive equipment failures. Thanks to CMMS, routinely scheduled checks are able to reduce unanticipated and potentially serious equipment breakdowns.
Without CMMS-managed operations that establish optimal maintenance schedules, production cycles can be disrupted. These disruptions are often costly, especially when they happen unexpectedly. Maintenance department managers are challenged by long waits to receive parts and redeploying staffers from one task to another.
CMMSs overcome these problems by customizing schedules based on equipment type and priority, maintenance protocol standards, and/or company production cycles. Maintenance managers can prioritize equipment that is most costly to a company in terms of repairs, downtime and value to operations. They can also schedule PM tasks based on repair histories during specific times throughout the year (e.g., plant shutdown or at the beginning of heating/cooling season.)
Making adjustments to routine maintenance checks without a CMMS can be challenging because maintenance history reports aren’t readily available using manual approaches. With a CMMS, once a PM schedule has been in place for a while, the system-generated reports let maintenance managers make changes to the PM schedules as needed.
By strategically planning PMs and refining and adjusting them as needed, a CMMS can strike a balance between preventative maintenance and the time needed to take care of emergency maintenance. The following are realistic expectations when using PM schedules:
- Increased operations and production efficiencies by allocating maintenance technicians by either equipment location or type
- Lowered maintenance costs because major equipment failure can be prevented
- Reduced unplanned downtime by preventing unexpected equipment failure and by scheduling routine maintenance during off hours or low production cycles
- Improved decision making by reviewing PM reports and adjusting PM schedules as needed
- Ensured equipment regulatory compliance using PM notification triggers
- Ensured work and safety standard compliance through routine preventive maintenance
- Maximized return on investment
The time delays caused by waiting to receive work orders and equipment parts or deploying maintenance techs amounts to even more added costs. Without a CMMS, the timeframe between identifying a problem and fixing it can often take days. Using the software, there is no need for hard copy work orders to remain on a desk or in a tech’s inbox waiting to be picked up. Instead, they are transmitted instantly.
Today’s automated systems have refined the process even further by incorporating mobile access. The need to return to onsite company computers to access the software has been completely eliminated. Now, the time gap from start to finish is often reduced to hours. Submitting or checking on the status of a work order, ordering parts, or generating reports can be done from wherever a maintenance staffer may be.
Maintenance managers and technicians are able to use all system features wherever they are via cellular data or WiFi access using their smartphones and tablets. This makes it possible for maintenance staff to do their jobs through a user-friendly CMMS app without any unnecessary interruptions or delays. Mobile access offers time-saving benefits and more efficient labor utilization; both of these are cost-saving ways of efficiently running a maintenance department.
Camera and Barcode Scanning Capabilities
These two relatively new CMMS features (which are accessible through mobile devices) have moved the needle further toward optimal maintenance management. Together, they save companies time and reduce errors.
Without automated systems, maintenance managers are left to rely on a hard copy report describing the location of a piece of equipment in need of servicing. They also have to spend time manually searching for a replacement part using its serial number. Both strategies are time-consuming and prone to error for obvious reasons. Now it is possible to fast track repairs by using a photo to locate a piece of equipment or a barcode when ordering a replacement part.
Today’s business owners are constantly looking for better ways to improve their bottom line. When it comes to their maintenance department, businesses cannot afford to fall short because of an underperforming maintenance management approach. CMMSs have the ability to transform once sluggish and inefficient maintenance departments into smart ones. Overall, maintenance CMMS software offers business owners an efficient and customizable facility management approach to increasing organizational efficiency, extending equipment lifespans and improving labor utilization. This is a quantum leap for maintenance departments that function on a reactive basis alone.
About the Author
Reena Sommer originally hails from Winnipeg, Manitoba and currently resides in the Houston, Texas area. In 1994, she graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Ph.D. in Psychology, Sociology and Family Studies. Over the years, she’s had diverse careers as a researcher in the Department of Community Health Sciences in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Manitoba, a mental health consultant to First Nations communities through Health Canada and as a self-employed family law trial consultant. Now retired, Dr. Sommer spends her time traveling, visiting her family in Winnipeg and providing content writing for Hippo CMMS.